Author: Sarah Smarsh
Publication Date: October 13, 2020
Book Description: The National Book Award finalist and New York Times bestselling author of Heartland focuses her laser-sharp insights on a working-class icon and one of the most unifying figures in American culture: Dolly Parton.
Growing up amid Kansas wheat fields and airplane factories, Sarah Smarsh witnessed firsthand the particular vulnerabilities—and strengths—of women in working poverty. Meanwhile, country songs by female artists played in the background, telling powerful stories about life, men, hard times, and surviving. In her family, she writes, “country music was foremost a language among women. It’s how we talked to each other in a place where feelings aren’t discussed.” And no one provided that language better than Dolly Parton.
Smarsh challenged a typically male vision of the rural working class with her first book, Heartland, starring the bold, hard-luck women who raised her. Now, in She Come By It Natural, originally published in a four-part series for The Journal of Roots Music, No Depression, Smarsh explores the overlooked contributions to social progress by such women—including those averse to the term “feminism”—as exemplified by Dolly Parton’s life and art.
Far beyond the recently resurrected “Jolene” or quintessential “9 to 5,” Parton’s songs for decades have validated women who go unheard: the poor woman, the pregnant teenager, the struggling mother disparaged as “trailer trash.” Parton’s broader career—from singing on the front porch of her family’s cabin in the Great Smoky Mountains to achieving stardom in Nashville and Hollywood, from “girl singer” managed by powerful men to leader of a self-made business and philanthropy empire—offers a springboard to examining the intersections of gender, class, and culture.
Infused with Smarsh’s trademark insight, intelligence, and humanity, She Come By It Natural is a sympathetic tribute to the icon Dolly Parton and—call it whatever you like—the organic feminism she embodies.
Rating: 4 1/2 Stars
Review: I have to personally say, I am not a huge fan of Dolly. Country music is just not my jam, however she is somebody who interests me. I love her movie career, and I love her personal story. Although, this book is very short, Smarsh packs a lot of gems in here.
For those of you who adore Dolly, which I suspect many of you do, I am not sure you are getting any new material. What was so good about this book, is the way Smarsh laid this out. There was an emphasis on Dolly and how she is a feminist.
We get stories, of Elvis, her acting career, her music career and Dollywood. Smarsh packs in a lot of antidotes that I think will resonate with everybody. I was personally reading a lot of sections to my husband, which he was adding feedback to.
This book is best read, with a cozy blanket and something to drink. If you already love Dolly, just savor it, if you are new to learning what a force she is, go in there knowing you will be slightly better for reading this.
Thank you NetGalley and Scribner for an Advanced Reader’s Copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.